Last month, partners of Missouri Foundation for Health’s Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative (IMRI) gathered in Cape Girardeau for a joint convening, Better Together: Community Collaboration for Infant Vitality. The action-oriented event marked the first time that partners from both the St. Louis and Missouri Bootheel efforts came together to share lessons they have learned thus far, as well as plans for the future.
Established in 2013, the infant mortality initiative is a community-driven collaborative geared toward improving infant vitality in the Bootheel and St. Louis. The goal of the IMRI is to reduce infant mortality rates in the two regions by at least 15 percent over a 10-year period using a framework called collective impact. Collective impact is an approach in which partners and community members work together toward a common goal.
The collective impact effort in St. Louis (FLOURISH St. Louis) is facilitated by the Maternal Child and Family Health Coalition. The southeast Missouri effort (Bootheel Babies and Families) is facilitated jointly by the Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium and the Bootheel Network for Health Improvement.
“Achieving collective impact requires strong ‘backbone’ support,” said Program Director Kathleen Holmes. “The three organizations we’ve partnered with have been instrumental in creating a space where community members can pave the way toward infant vitality together.”
Following breakfast and a brief welcome from the MFH team, the convening began in earnest with a keynote presentation by Ryan Adcock, executive director of Cradle Cincinnati. Adcock shared his experiences and successes in encouraging groups to collaborate to reduce infant deaths and premature births in Cincinnati. He also spoke about his organization’s strategies and how similar work could be replicated in Missouri.
After the keynote Initiative partners received updates from Bootheel Babies and Families and FLOURISH St. Louis. Participants were able to dive deeper into the collective impact framework, gain a better understanding of what has been done to encourage collaboration in their communities and discuss ways in which their work can support the larger goals for the region.
The collective wisdom of our partners is what will drive these community efforts forward,” said Logsdon. “In the rush of our busy lives we often don’t get a chance to step back and learn and reflect but that is the space where opportunity is born and nurtured. If we want to ensure infant vitality, we have to take that time.
Participants were offered the chance to take part in small, targeted roundtable discussions, such as “Using Data to Mobilize Communities” and “Getting the Most Out of Every Interview: Storytelling for Impact.” These discussions gave organizations an opportunity to learn and network directly with regional partners and other professionals in the field they may not have known before. “Cross pollinating ideas and strategies between groups from different parts of the state is just one of the advantages of a convening like this,” said Melissa Logsdon, a program officer at MFH. After the convening, MFH facilitated a follow-up conference call with Ryan Adcock and initiative partners. Participants were then able to ask questions and engage in a more in-depth discussion with Adcock.
Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive. In a post-convening survey, nearly 70 percent of participants said that they intended to make changes to their work due to insights they gained during the experience. Based on the success, MFH plans on facilitating additional learning opportunities in the future.